Home > Uncategorized > William Blake: Be withdrawn cloudy war, troops of warriors depart, nor around our peaceable city breathe

William Blake: Be withdrawn cloudy war, troops of warriors depart, nor around our peaceable city breathe


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

William Blake: Selections on war and peace


William Blake
From The French Revolution (1791)


To enrich the lean earth that craves, furrow’d with ploughs, whose seed is departing from her,
Thy Nobles have gather’d thy starry hosts round this rebellious city,
To rouse up the ancient forests of Europe, with clarions of cloud-breathing war,
To hear the horse neigh to the drum and trumpet, and the trumpet and war shout reply.


We have call’d an Assembly, but not to destroy; we have given gifts, not to the weak;
I hear rushing of muskets and bright’ning of swords; and visages, redd’ning with war,
Frowning and looking up from brooding villages and every dark’ning city.
Ancient wonders frown over the kingdom, and cries of women and babes are heard…


‘…Hear the voice of valleys, the voice of meek cities,
Mourning oppressèd on village and field, till the village and field is a waste.
For the husbandman weeps at blights of the fife, and blasting of trumpets consume
The souls of mild France; the pale mother nourishes her child to the deadly slaughter.
When the heavens were seal’d with a stone, and the terrible sun clos’d in an orb, and the moon
Rent from the nations, and each star appointed for watchers of night,
The millions of spirits immortal were bound in the ruins of sulphur heaven
To wander enslav’d; black, despress’d in dark ignorance, kept in awe with the whip
To worship terrors, bred from the blood of revenge and breath of desire
In bestial forms, or more terrible men; till the dawn of our peaceful morning,
Till dawn, till morning, till the breaking of clouds, and swelling of winds, and the universal voice;
Till man raise his darken’d limbs out of the caves of night. His eyes and his heart
Expand – Where is Space? where; O Sun, is thy dwelling? where thy tent, O faint slumb’rous Moon?
Then the valleys of France shall cry to the soldier: “Throw down thy sword and musket,
And run and embrace the meek peasant.” Her Nobles shall hear and shall weep, and put off
The red robe of terror, the crown of oppression, the shoes of contempt, and unbuckle
The girdle of war from the desolate earth…

Then hear the first voice of the morning: “Depart, O clouds of night, and no more
Return; be withdrawn cloudy war, troops of warriors depart, nor around our peaceable city
Breathe fires; but ten miles from Paris let all be peace, nor a soldier be seen!”’

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